Wednesday Training Tip

Know Your Barbells


What type of barbell should you use for bench presses and power cleans? Because each barbell has qualities that can affect performance, you should have a special bar for each lift.

Olympic barbells can be divided into three types: weightlifting, powerlifting, and multi-purpose. A weightlifting barbell must be flexible to minimize joint stress, particularly on the wrists. The weightlifter can use the elastic qualities of these barbells to help them lift more weight. These barbells possess smoothly revolving sleeves to enable the athlete to turn over their wrists quickly and easily during the top of the snatch, clean, or power versions of these exercises. Weightlifting barbells are the most expensive, with top-of-the-line bars costing over $1,000.

A powerlifting barbell is stiffer than a weightlifting barbell to provide maximum stability during a squat or bench press. It has sharper knurling to ensure a stronger grip and to better secure the bar on the shoulders during squats. Many powerlifters have squatted and bench pressed over 1,000 pounds, and fighting the oscillation of the barbell will reduce the amount of weight they can lift. Because more weight can be lifted in the powerlifts than in the Olympic lifts, the distance between the inside collars is narrower to allow more plates to fit on the bar. Also, the knurling tends to be much sharper than a weightlifting bar to allow for a better grip.

A multi-purpose barbell is a hybrid of weightlifting and powerlifting bars. The dimensions are usually the same as a weightlifting barbell, but the quality is less, so it won’t spin or flex as well. These bars are typically found in commercial gyms and are the least expensive of the three bars. (TSS)

BOTTOM LINE: Use the best barbell for the lifts you are performing.

– Photo by Viviana Podhaiski,


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